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Artist reference - How I use photography books for reference

Updated on June 4, 2011

Photography books can be a good source of artist reference material - see a couple of my favourite reference books below

As an artist who dabbles in all sorts of areas, including traditional landscape painting, drawing, digital and fantasy art, I need inspiration and a supply of artist reference material. This can come from a number of different sources but one source that I love to look through are photography books, both old and new. I don’t mean the more technical photography books that have pages upon pages of camera information, photography techniques and software reviews. I mean the photography books that shows the actual work of the photographer, the inspirational images that top photographers produce.

Looking at a blank canvas or a large piece of white watercolour board can be daunting. Even when I have an idea for a painting and have collected together sketches and colour studies, looking at quality nature and landscape photography books can be a real boost to my work.

Nature and landscape photography books from photographers such as Guy Edwards, David Noton and Lee Frost are priceless, with regards inspiration, ideas and motivation.

Photography books can be a great source if artist reference
Photography books can be a great source if artist reference

To illustrate what I mean with regards the comments above, I have quickly photographed a selection of internal book spreads (below) from a couple of my favourite photography books that I use as artist reference.

The first is a spread is from the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost. A photography book that helps you get more from your DSLR or are simply looking for new creative avenues to explore. It’s packed with invaluable tips on how to create stunning photographs and Lee Frost provides great ideas on reinvigorating your work. It’s a great book from a photographers perspective, but for an artist it’s packed with inspirational images.

Pages 104 and 105 of 50 Photo Projects show great rock and cliff detail that are stunning in their colour and texture. Pages 138 and 139 from the book illustrate stunning landscape with beautiful colours. There are many more in the book and these images offer great inspiration and reference material.

A wealth of artist refernce material

For the nature and wildlife artist, there are books like the 100 Way to Take Better Nature & Wildlife Photographs. Books like this not only offer a collection of superb wildlife images but offer ideas on composition and plenty of inspiration. Wildlife books are particularly good sources of close-up wildlife reference material. Unlike landscapes, wildlife is always on the move and detailed close images of your subject can be difficult with the wildlife books offering a wealth of great inspirational images to be used as artist rference.

Pages 126 and 127 highlight this very well indeed, with superb detail, colour and inspiration from a selection of great images.

Beautiful close up photography - artist reference at its best

Photography books, like the ones mentioned above, can vary in price with some being expensive. I would not be discouraged by this, as used books are always a great source of inspiration and can be picked up at a fraction of the cost of a new version.

To conclude, reference and inspiration for my art can come from many areas and photography books is just one avenue I use for artist refernce. Searching for quality photography books can be interesting, and you never know what you may come across when searching for used versions.

As an artist, what sources of reference do you use!

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